Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Queen Needs No Advocate

In my career, I've been fortunate to spend a great deal of time involved in system design.  Much of that time has been spent implementing or modifying established systems (e.g. Dungeons & Dragons and Fallout's SPECIAL system).  Before I was employed in the industry, I spent a lot of time developing my own tabletop systems and modifying the systems of others, so this has always been something I've enjoyed doing.

There are many pitfalls to system design and I believe most designers trip those pitfalls by moving into implementation details too quickly.  I believe some keys to success in system design (and for design in general) are to establish clear goals, to frame what those goals will accomplish in terms of player experience, and to continually return to those goals and player experiences to ensure that nothing was lost in the details of implementation.

I believe the most well-executed systems are ones where thoughtful players can accurately discern the designers' goals simply by scrutinizing the systems in action.  Though not all players need to be able to do this, the ones who care to do so should be able to.  Designers who succeed in creating systems that can be "reverse-engineered" in such a way have captured the soul of elegance in design.

I sometimes look to traditional games for mechanical inspiration.  One of the ones I think of most often is chess.  Clocking in at over 1,000 years of play around the world, chess has had a lot of iteration time.  I'm not an expert on chess strategy and I'm not a particularly good player, but I know chess well enough to take some simple lessons away from it.  Two that I often rely on are lessons of obvious value and orthogonally equivalent value.  These two lessons can be summarized by examing three chess pieces: the queen, the knight, and the bishop.

When I look at any system, I examine both the system's design as well as the content that uses the system.  I believe this is something that system designers should always do.  A system is only as good as the content that makes use of it; content that fails to make use of a system (or vice versa) will always create a disappointing experience.

The queen is typically the most powerful piece in chess (though not the most valuable; that role is reserved for the king).  The queen's movement capabilities combine the lateral movement of the rook with the diagonal movement of the bishop.  Even if you are learning chess for the first time, the fact that the queen combines the movement of two other pieces makes her relative power clear.  A rook's ability to perform a castle, the knight's excellence at creating forks, and a the pawn's ability to capture an enemy pawn en passant are all capabilities that take a while for players to appreciate, but not the queen's movement.  The queen's value is obvious.

Gameplay consists of players making (more-or-less) informed decisions about what they need to do to overcome an obstacle.  It is not enough for the obstacle to be clearly defined and communicated to players.  They also need to have a clear understanding of what tools are at their disposal to solve the problem.  In chess, the player's primary tools are his or her pieces.  Though circumstances determine the value of pieces on any given move, no one needs to advocate the fundamental value of the queen in chess.

As an extreme analogue in video games, it's unlikely that many players need to be told what the value of the HECU RPG is the first time they find one in Half-Life.  After being pursued by a relentless Apache helicopter over numerous maps, the player winds up in a cave with the RPG on the ground and the Apache hovering outside.  Players typically snatch up the RPG and blast the Apache in moments.  Though the HECU is not the "queen" of Half-Life's weapons, it has obvious applicability in the circumstance where it appears.

When designers develop tools, we should strive for clarity of primary purpose in a player's tools.  The more obvious we make the value of the tools at a player's disposal, the more quickly the player will spend time fully engaged with the obstacles at hand instead of trying to figure out what they aren't "getting".

Chess has various informal ranking systems for the relative value of pieces.  The rankings are not used for scoring, but they are used to give players a rough idea of the strategic (not tactical) value of those pieces.  In the most commonly used system, pawns have a value of 1, rooks have a value of 5, and queens have a value of 9.  Knights and bishops are both rated at 3.  Bishops move diagonally, always staying on their starting color, and knights are the "funny moving" pieces of chess, hopping two squares horizontally or vertically and one square vertically or horizontally, passing over other pieces along the way.  Though their tactical applications in any given circumstance are completely dissimilar, the common ranking systems give them equal (or close to equal) strategic value in chess.

Whether chess' numerous contributors intended for them to be equal in value by design or players collectively determined they were equal in value, today's players generally regard them as being so in spite of their radical differences.  I.e., players treat them as having orthogonally equivalent value.  Knights and bishops are considered equivalent in an orthogonal sense because their mechanics and applications do not overlap but they commonly create the same amount of benefit for players.  Though bishops can move infinitely along their color, potentially from corner to corner, they lack the knight's ability to move over pieces.

Dungeons & Dragons commonly presents choices in such a fashion.  The most obvious examples are spells, which are grouped by level.  In most editions of A/D&D, haste and fireball are 3rd level wizard/magic-user/sorcerer spells.  Though the tactical relevance and application of these spells varies wildly, the games' designers established them as being equal.

When we design tools for the player to use -- abilities, gear, options, upgrades -- options with ostensibly orthogonally equivalent value create interesting choices for the player.  They also lend themselves to increased clarify of purpose.  The more tools overlap in function, the less obvious it is to players why a given tool exists.  The less tools overlap in function, the more those tools seem suited to a specific circumstance.

While these are high-level design concepts, creating choices with obvious, easily differentiated values can make the low-level details much easier to execute and build upon.  When a player is presented with strategic or tactical choices, he or she is always fundamentally asking the question, "Why do I want to make this choice instead of any of the others?"  As designers, we want to communicate the answers to their questions as elegantly as possible.  Ideally, the design of the player's tools and the game's content should be self-advocating, allowing players to reverse-engineer our intent and their range of choices without a word of explanation.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

JSawyer.esp - v5.1

A helpful modder going by the handle xporc graciously addressed some issues in my mod that I was having trouble resolving.  After some back-and-forth to fix some display issues, JSawyer v5.1 is ready.

Here's a high-level overview of what's substantively changed:

* Hardcore (H2O/FOD/SLP) thresholds have been set to 400/550/700/850/1000 as originally intended for the mod.  The HUD indicators now match this.  However, because all "Hardcore" HUD indicators flip over at the same values, this means we had to change the Radiation thresholds (and Rad Child) to match.  This means you can go a little bit longer before suffering ill effects from Radiation, but since the Hardcore acquisition rates are all faster than normal, I think players will still be doing more maintenance overall.
* A bunch of dirty edits I had previously made have been cleaned up.
* Various oversights have been fixed (details in the readme).

N.B.: Some of these fixes may not appear if you replace the mod for a game in progress.

As always, it is available here:

Thanks to xporc for his help with these problems.  I will be using v5.1 as the starting point for a future v6 (if it is needed).

JSawyer.esp - v5

An updated version of JSawyer is now uploaded in the usual place:

I have been unable to load the mod in FNVEdit to adjust the Dehydration/Starvation/Sleep Deprivation values, but here is the small list of changes since last time:

v5 Changes:
* That Gun added to The Professional list
* Wanderer's Leather and Highway Scar Armor placed in Mick and Cliff's stores respectively.
* Ranger Battle Armor renamed to Lucky Battle Armor.  Stats adjusted, Reilly's Rangers decals removed.  Placed in Cliff's Store.
* Has Backpack flag checked on Power Armors.
* Bent Tin Can = Tin Can! recipe added.  It turns Bent Tin Cans into Tin Cans!!!!  WOW!!!!

* All primary quest XP in DLCs reduced by 66%.  Edits were made in the quest scripts.

* Replaced accidental secondary placement of duplicate Mercenary's Grenade Rifle with the Sturdy Caravan Shotgun.
* Fire Axe and Knock Knock added to Never Axed For This challenge weapon list.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

the black hound - what its deal was

In the course of following our countdown over at Obsidian, a lot of gamers have been discussing past IPs we've worked with. One of the common subjects is The Black Hound, a project some of us at OEI worked on at Black Isle. It's also something I worked on as a NWN2 mod in my spare time. There's a Wikipedia entry for it and a few lore sites kicking around. Some of the info on it is accurate and some isn't, but I think the details are less important than what we were trying to do with it. I can't speak for everyone who was on the project, of course, but TBH was important to me for a lot of reasons.

When I came to Black Isle, the majority of the studio was working on Planescape: Torment. I was the webmaster for that project, but I desperately wanted to work in development as a designer. I had spent a huge amount of personal time in the 90s playing 2nd Edition AD&D in the Forgotten Realms. Working on Icewind Dale was a dream come true. Yeah, the game had a smaller story focus, and yeah, it didn't have companions, and yeah, and was linear and dungeon-focused, but I was making a real AD&D video game in the Forgotten Realms.

Icewind Dale II is the first game I was credited as lead designer on, but I was the lead designer on TBH first. I felt that the Dalelands, bordering on the Moonsea, presented a cool subsection of the Realms and a crossroads of cultures that would be interesting to explore. We could build a personal story, focused on how you fatefully intersected the life of someone hell-bent on doing something crazy. Like many Realms adventures, this wasn't a world-shattering event, but something locally catastrophic, like Moander appearing near a town and devouring a huge swath of the landscape. It's just one of those crazy Realms stories where bands of adventurers and the Cult of the Dragon start throwing fireballs and leveling villages while the townsfolk run for cover.

Some people have suggested that I hate high fantasy or want to subvert high fantasy. Neither of these are really true. I just don't like how most stories handle high fantasy: both too seriously and not seriously enough. Too seriously in the sense that a lot of fantasy conventions are considered so sacred that you can't touch them (or even question them). Not seriously enough in the sense that the scenarios and the characters don't feel like they tackle the obvious questions raised by the settings they're placed in.

As an example, the Red Wizards of Thay (an FR magical organization/magocracy) underwent a transformation between 2nd Ed. and 3E. They became a "kinder, gentler" trading nation forming magical mercantile enclaves in lands that would let them in. The thing is, 2nd Ed./3E Red Wizards probably look pretty weird to Cormyreans and Dalesmen. They shave their heads (including the women), speak a different language, and have a lot of magical tattoos. They're also darker-skinned. After a few centuries of being regarded as pariahs everywhere west of the River Sur, they show up in these places and are doing business -- questionable business -- in broad daylight.

The FR designers did something interesting in shifting their MO between 2nd Ed. and 3E. The not interesting thing to do (IMO) with that shift as a scenario or story designer would be to have a pack of bad guy Thayans in an enclave with the good guy locals saying, "Those darn Thayans are up to something, please help us, heroes." I was intrigued by the idea that a Thayan enclave could contain a "new guard" of diplomatic Red Wizards and an "old guard" of fireball-hurling hardasses who aren't allowed (or are discouraged from going) outside. Some of the new guard genuinely want to mend fences. Others simply want to use it as a way to re-establish safe power centers and observation posts in lands where they previously would have been killed on sight.

The new guard use concealing/lightening makeup, don wigs, and wear "western" clothing to fit in. The old guard chafes at having to conceal their heritage and suffers under the jeers and slurs of locals if they dare to appear in public. The new guard speaks with good and proper "Common" grammar and pronunciation, not stumbling over foreign sounds and linguistic concepts. I thought it would create a more interesting and nuanced relationship between the Thayans, the Dalesman, and those who interacted with them, lending sympathy to the traditionally "villainous" and creating a more agonizing struggle between the sub-factions of the Thayans.

An old evil wizard who strokes his beard and cackles as he unleashes chain lightning on random townsfolk isn't particularly sympathetic. But suppose he were a veteran Red Wizard who watched his fellows succumb over the years in service to the zulkirs and was forced to "step aside" as young diplomats smooth talked their way into trade relationships with their former enemies. He has to endure the insults of locals, hear them mock his clothing, his pronunciation, his skin, his culture. And when he expresses his frustration to his new (younger) "superiors", he's treated like an anachronism, an old artillery cannon left to rust and rot on a forgotten battlefield. That dude may still wind up casting chain lightning on townsfolk, but if we weave a compelling story around him, the player should feel that there's more to him than that.

I've been rambling here a bit but let me get back to the main point: The Black Hound wasn't really *~ sUbVeRsIvE ~* "this ain't your daddy's RPG!" fantasy. It had elven ruins and fire genasi and Ilmaterian paladins and Maztican sorcerers and crypts full of undead -- all the stuff that made the Forgotten Realms the crazy blend of hardass adventurer-heavy, gods-mess-with-things, cults-and-dracoliches-under-this-rock D&D fantasy it always has been. I, and I think we all, just tried to approach the world with open eyes, asking, "Okay, so let's suppose all of this stuff about the Realms is true. What does that really mean for how the people in it live their lives?" It made the world more dark and grim, and sometimes that consideration wound up bucking convention, but we didn't set out to invert fantasy conventions just for the sake of doing it.

I regret that the team wasn't able to complete The Black Hound, and not just because of the time and passion we all invested in it. Some of my best tabletop RPG (and CRPG) memories come out of the Forgotten Realms. Huge, crazy, "how many more Volo's Guides can there be?" Forgotten Realms. I think those scenarios were memorable because the DMs/designers made compelling scenarios and the players gave a damn about each other and what was going on. If you take fantasy for granted, yeah, no one's going to get much out of it. I don't think we took anything for granted. We had an opportunity to make something that celebrated high fantasy without being enslaved by its conventions. In retrospect, there are a bunch of personal design choices I look back on and cringe at, but I don't regret the time I spent on it at all. When you enjoy the process of making something that much, it's hard to consider it time wasted. We had a lot of fun while it lasted.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Firearm Legislation: Why We Have So Much Trouble Talking About It

This past week, there was a terrible massacre at an Aurora, Colorado theatre on the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises.  The perpetrator used tear gas and a variety of firearms to inflict numerous casualties before being captured.

As with the Gabby Giffords shooting and many other high-profile acts of extreme firearm violence, there was an immediate call for increased firearm legislation.  This is an understandable reaction, but debates on the topic are almost universally unproductive, typically because they aren't actually debates.  They are usually online shouting matches and polemics that are designed to draw agreement and ire.  I'd like to give my perspective on firearm legislation and why discussions surrounding it often go so poorly.

I grew up in Wisconsin, a state with a large population of hunters.  Though my father hunted when he was young, he did not hunt at all as an adult.  I had a BB gun and a pellet gun, but never had a non-air-powered firearm.  My mother hated guns and still hates guns of all kinds.  A few years ago, I started taking handgun safety classes and eventually purchased a Colt M1991, an updated version of the .45 ACP sidearm used by American armed forces from WWI to Vietnam and beyond.  I also purchased some lever-action rifles, some military surplus WWII-era battle rifles, and a pump-action shotgun.  I went to local indoor and outdoor ranges by myself and with friends who were also interested in firearms.  I talked with range masters, gun store employees, and fellow shooters at the range on subjects ranging from practical to political.

My interests were mostly academic.  For better or worse, many video games feature firearms, and I don't like being ignorant about the things I work on.  Don't get me wrong: I also enjoy shooting and maintaining firearms, but that enjoyment followed the academic interest.  As with many of my hobbies, my interest peaked, tapered, and has fallen off.  I'm about to sell most of my firearms, mostly because I don't have any practical use for them and I just don't get out to the range that often.  I'm glad I learned what I have, but it's just not a big part of my life.  One of the most important things I've learned is what it's like to be a gun owner in America.  I believe it's helped me understand these debates much better than I previously had.

In my (admittedly short) time as a gun owner, I've heard a lot of complaints from other gun owners about why they hate gun legislation.  Some of it is rabid hostility, but it's foolish to dismiss all of it as such.  I've also had a lot of criticism come my way for owning firearms and for going to ranges.  From these two general perspectives, I have developed some theories about why gun control debates get very unproductive very quickly.

Many of the people who are most vocal about firearm legislation are the people who understand firearms the least.  A subset of these people are even proud of the fact that they don't know anything about firearms.  I believe this attitude is extraordinarily foolish.  Ignorance leads to bad legislation, regardless of the subject.  Most firearm legislation is bad because the public's understanding of the realities of firearms in America is bad.  When I say the legislation is bad, I don't mean that it's bad because it tramples rights or isn't constitutional, but because it doesn't even accomplish the things its advocates want it to accomplish.

The 1975 Firearm Controls Regulation Act (a.k.a. the D.C. handgun ban) accomplished virtually nothing because the legislation ignored the practical realities of how firearms are trafficked across state lines and how available they are across the country, legally or illegally.  The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) was similarly ineffective because "assault weapons" as defined by the AWB are used in a fraction of firearm-related crimes.

Many of the people who are most vocal about firearm legislation are transparently disingenuous about their end goals.  If your end goal is to reduce firearm-related crime, present your ideas and desires sincerely with that in mind.  If your end goal is for all firearms to be banned and all extant civilian-owned firearms to be reclaimed and destroyed by the government, be sincere about that as well.  There are many, many cases where people advocate legislation disingenuously.  They suggest a modest restriction under the pretense of reform, but their actual desire is to make the United States a nation without civilian firearm ownership.

If you wonder why some firearm owners react to talk of incremental gun control as though their houses are going to be raided and they are going to be arrested for owning a bolt-action varmint rifle, it's because they don't believe in the sincerity of people advocating incremental legislation (and they are often right not to).

The NRA is awful.  I know some firearm owners and NRA members are going to read this blog and be upset by that, but I find it hard to defend the NRA.  It's an organization that frequently rabble-rouses and presents an eternal us-vs-them conflict to firearm owners.  Many of their positions are extreme and unsupported.  The NRA, along with many firearm manufacturers and gun store owners, "predicted" a huge storm of firearm legislation after Obama was elected.

Before his inauguration, there was an astounding market run on items that they "predicted" would be legislated or banned: >10 round magazines, certain types of ammunition, and anything previously covered by the AWB (that they said would be renewed despite virtually no signs the administration had any interest in doing so).  AR-15 receivers were among the most insanely market-inflated, but many types of ammunition were also hoarded in large quantities.  Gun store clerks were even re-selling ammunition "under the table"  with dramatically increased prices.

The saddest thing is that gun owners across the country bought into it.  All of it.  For the past year, the NRA has been building up for the 2012 election, promising that Obama is going to go into firearm legislation overdrive if he is re-elected.  Again, to date, there's no solid evidence this is going to happen, but the NRA is terribly good at spreading panic.

The media is just as ignorant as the public.  It's also sensationalist.  So despite the fact that the AR-15, one of the weapons used in the Aurora killings, fires a 5.56x45mm round realistically described as "mid-powered" (its parent round, .223 Remington, was developed for hunting "varmints" -- rabbits, coyotes, squirrels, etc.), many papers and blogs describe it as "high-powered" or "fearsome".

Writers will also draw similarities between situations that aren't really relevant, but promote radical panic.  The Aurora shooter used a Glock.  Jared Loughner, the man who shot Gabrielle Giffords, also used a Glock.  These facts shouldn't be that surprising considering that the majority of police departments across the country use Glocks and it's one of the most popular brands of semi-automatic civilian handgun around.

Some people may say that these points of contention don't matter.  When it comes to legislation, those points are very important, and popular opinion often drives legislation.  When gun owners scoff at advocates of fingerprinting when people buy "handgun ammo" or restricting the sale of "assault weapons", it's because those quoted terms are vague or nonsense.  Unfortunately, many members of the public become concerned about these specific ideas because they're the things that reporters in the media promote, regardless of relevance.

Proposed actions are often radical and irrationally focused instead of progressive and comprehensive.  These discussions happen in cycles, usually launched by a national (or international) tragedy.  Specific things happen in the tragedy: Glocks are used, large-capacity magazines are used, a certain type of ammunition is used.  Instead of looking at national (and international) trends in firearm ownership and crime, people get hung up on the specifics of the tragedy: ban Glocks, ban large-capacity magazines, ban this type of ammunition.  For many reasons, it's important to talk about the specifics, but legislating around the specifics usually doesn't solve larger problems.  Most of the time, it doesn't solve any problems, and the divide between firearm owners and gun control advocates grows even larger.

Widespread firearm ownership, legal and illegal, is a practical reality in the United States.  Gun violence, even adjusted for population, is also a much larger issue here than it is in most ostensibly "peaceful" countries.  It is sad that the salient times we have to discuss these problems are often preceded by terrible events like the Aurora shootings.  It is even more unfortunate that all sides of the debate spend so much of their energy locked in fruitless arguments instead of approaching the subject with sober, sincere, and considerate minds.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Art and Appreciation

I grew up in a household where one of my parents was self-employed.  My mother began a career at a magazine publisher when I was young.  Barring a few short stints in the late 70s and 80s when he worked as a full-time employee for various companies, my father has been a freelance sculptor for the entirety of my life.  He has sculpted belt buckles, busts, fountains, seals reading books on benches, giant flamingos, torch-bearing Sauks, lamp posts, Erté-inspired art deco female figurines, the Fonz, and myriad corporate doo-dads.  He also draws and paints.  In our house, there's a painting of me sitting on the steps of our old house in Caledonia, Wisconsin.  On another wall, there's a huge painting of some insane abstract whatever he made long ago.  And on his computer, he uses his Wacom tablet daily to make some of the most bizarre, Boschian, hellish landscapes I've ever seen.

I never really made a distinction between these things as "art" or "not art".  In my mind, I considered all of them to be art.  It never crossed my mind that the commercial pieces were less art than the personal pieces, or that the giant abstracts were more art than the portraits of family members and friends.  Many people attach personal drive and tenacity to artistic merit.  Surrender of drive, surrender of vision, surrender of principle -- that's selling out.  I never associated this with my father because, to be frank, in his professional dealings he's often been stubborn, hot-tempered, and implacable.  It didn't matter if he was working for a school district, the city of Milwaukee, or a self-made billionaire.  If you asked him to make a change that he thought was bad, the response was fast and often not diplomatic.

There is much to be admired in the attitude, if not always the ferocity of the response: the principle, the confidence, the determination.  It says, "I am the artist.  I am the one who makes the decision."  This attitude is not always rewarded, and it is typically not respected by the people who are likely to do the rewarding: the clients.  Throughout my life, I've watched my father sculpt many things for many clients.  I've seen him frustrated and triumphant as our family went through financial ups and downs.  I can't remember a time that I ever went hungry, that I ever felt poor, thanks to my parents, but I could tell that it troubled him.  To me, there was no importance on the labels: "art", "fine art", "commercial art".  The importance was the struggle.  How important is it to satisfy an audience?  Does your work need to have an audience?  Can you make a bad choice and fix it later?  Do you need to communicate something?  Do you need to pay the rent?  Do you give a shit if this person hates your guts?  Does it matter if you lose all future work with this client?  Are you willing to live or die on this one point?

After growing up with a sculptor; working with video game artists, writers, and musicians, for over a decade; and living with a traditional painter for almost as long, I developed a maxim for how I would approach creative work: Do anything you want to do in life. Just don't expect anyone to pay you or respect you for it.

This, to me, is the razor.  It's the distillation of any creative struggle with the audience: is the critical or financial approval of the audience worth making a creative choice you think is inferior?  The audience may change: your co-workers, your boss, your client, your lover, your mother, the critics, the public.  You give different audiences different weight, sometimes capriciously, sometimes rationally.  Different issues may weigh on you more heavily than others.  Sometimes it's easy to let go.  Sometimes it hurts like hell.  Sometimes you won't budge on principle.  Sometimes you won't budge because fuck you, idiot.

We often use art and the authority of the artist (or the author, or the director, etc.) as an abstract shield to justify choices we make contrary to the desires of an audience.  We make a choice, an audience complains, and sometimes -- all too often -- we say, "Sorry, but art."  This is unproductive deflection.  This is an absurd, conversation-ending non-argument.  It is presented as a wall that no criticism can breach.  How is the critic intended to respond?

Someone doesn't like how you portrayed a character.  Someone doesn't like how you ended a story.  Someone doesn't like how you framed your shots.  "Art" as defense is not a response to criticism, it is a hollow rejection of criticism.  It does not encourage dialogue, it does not promote introspection, and it does not (typically) ameliorate the audience's displeasure.  At its worst, such a defense encourages non-topical arguments about the nature of art itself.  These discussions, in which no parties are ever victorious, quickly spiral so far away from the actual point of criticism that they often never return.

When I see this, I ask myself: is this how authors and audiences should interact?  I don't think so.  I think both the author and the audience deserve, and can benefit, more from honest appraisals of why we make the choices we makes.  Stop talking about "art".  Stop talking about "entitlement".  How does casting blame elevate and advance conversation about the work?  This is about questioning our work, our choices, our relationship (or lack thereof) with the audience.

Ultimately, our works are our answers to those questions.  Implicitly, what we give to our audience is indicative of our values.  Everything that follows -- the sales, the reviews, the debates, the revisions, the re-releases -- should be viewed as tools for the authors and audience to reinforce or recalibrate those values for future work.  Unless an author plans on quitting creative endeavors after the next project he or she completes, this process is something all of us will go through for life.

If you want to end a conversation, to cut off communication, it's easy enough to deflect criticism.  Assuming you do make your work for an audience, you probably don't make it for all audiences.  Sometimes, the fuck you, idiot instinct is the right one.  If you don't want that audience to respect you or pay for your work, cut them loose; they're not worth your time and you're not worth theirs.  But most of us can also accept a certain amount of dissatisfaction within our target audience.  We make choices, some members of the audience are dissatisfied, but we still suspect they're the right choices.  For those people, and for the rest of the audience, we have the ability to engage them, to sincerely explain our values and hear theirs.

All people engaged in a life of creative work have to fight battles against their shifting priorities.  We all make trade-offs, one way or another. The more we illuminate the specific twists and turns of our own choices, and the struggles involved in making them, the more everyone can gain from the exchange.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

JSawyer.esp - v4

Yeah, I don't have a good excuse for why it took me this long to update the JSawyer mod.  But the outage gave me a nice chunk of time to fix up a few things.  Updating the mod should not conflict with your current save games, but what do I know?

As always, it is located here:

v4 Changes:
* Added regular Hatchet to I Never Axed For This challenge + perk.
* Fixed critical hit chance on Certified Tech perk.
* Tin Cans and Bent Tin Cans weight from 1.0 to 0.1.

* Tribal Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~* (see End of Document)
* Caravan Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~*
* Old CS scripts adding items to Chet's invetory have had those lines commented out.
* New (single) message indicates items are placed around the Mojave Wasteland.
* I Never Axed For This challenge and perk added.

* Classic Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~*
* Mercenary Pack items moved to a *~ Secret Location ~*

* Level cap properly set to 15, adjusts up to 35 with all DLC.  This was stealth fixed for v3 a day after launch, but there you go.
* Auto-Inject Stimpaks and Super Stimpaks set to match Stimpak / Super Stim healing rates.
* Expired Stimpak set to 50 VAL from 75.
* Set the Roughin' It! Bedroll Kit ingestible to 10 lbs. from 15.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

on, wisconsin

In less than a month, Wisconsinites will go to their polling places to cast a vote in the gubernatorial recall election.  If you are unaware, Governor Scott Walker came under intense criticism for a series of bills he supported that weakened unions.  Of specific note, collective bargaining rights were stripped from unions.  A non-trivial section of the populace, supported by unions from within Wisconsin and from other other states, staged large protests at the capitol in Madison.

Additionally, the "Wisconsin 14", fourteen Democrats from the state senate, fled the state to stall passage of the bills.  The protests and senatorial hijinks continued for months, with counter-protests forming and the political tone in Wisconsin becoming increasingly venomous and partisan.  While I did not return to Wisconsin, I did attend a support protest at Los Angeles City Hall.

Even there, the tone was often mocking and negative.  When I talked to people back home, I was dismayed by tendencies to demonize and belittle.  Even though I supported blocking Governor Walker's bills and maintaining unions' collective bargaining rights, it was painful for me to see my home's political climate, so moderate and civil in my lifetime, turn bitter, inconsiderate, and zealous.

My mother's parents were union folks. Her father helped form a machinist's union and both he and my grandmother served as local presidents.  My father's father was a shoemaker and a farmer.  There were no unions for him.  No unions for my father (sculptor) or me (game designer).  I'm fine with not being in a union.  I'm glad I am paid very well and receive good benefits, but I understand that not everyone has it so easy.  I'm glad that unions can be formed and can collectively bargain for rights.  I also understand that, like any organization, unions are made of people, and people can be bad.  Some unions are terrible, locally and nationally.

For me, the issue was never to place unions in a position superior to businesses; I don't think there's anything inherently virtuous about either group of people.  I just thought Walker's bills pushed the balance too far.  Maybe those who supported them thought they were fine, but certainly they could see why unions exist... right?  Certainly those who supported unions could see why some would criticize some union practices... right?  This is the state that produced "Fighting Bob" La Follette, and Russ Feingold, but elected Tommy Thompson governor for four terms and historically has a fair split of Democrat/Republican presidential results (excepting 1924, when it went Progressive).  We enacted the Wisconsin Idea, La Follette and the Progressives' vision of the UW system working with the government to produce better lives for all Wisconsinites.  We've been a state of farmers, cheesemakers, manufacturers, brewers, fishers, and miners.  To me, Wisconsinites have always seemed on board with working things out and using common sense.  I may have been mistaken.

When I visited Wisconsin for two weeks in February of this year, I saw more hostile political billboards, lawn signs, and bumper stickers than I had in the twenty-three years I lived in the state.  The recall primary, which took place yesterday, was months away and the protests were almost a year in the past, but people were still mad.  Mad about everything.  A family friend came over to the house.  When he walked in, he pointed to everyone in the room and said, "We're all Democrats here, right?  Right?"  He was joking, but not really.

I don't feel my expectations are too high.  I don't expect people not to be mad.  I don't expect them not to yell, not to protest, not to rally.  I just expect them to not shake and sputter with hate, not to threaten and insult those who disagree with them, not to belittle physical or other personal characteristics of their opponents.  Maybe they do that in other states, but not in Wisconsin... right?

There's a little less than a month to go before the recall.  I support Tom Barrett even though he is not "the union" candidate.  I don't feel Wisconsin needs "a union" governor.  In my opinion, it needs a governor who understands that there should be a balance between the power of unions and the power of corporations.  If you disagree in any way, that's fine.  It's all fine.  We can talk about it and vote about it (well, you can vote about it, I can pay property taxes and complain if Barrett loses).  We can be civil.  We can earnestly accept the other side is trying to do the right thing.  In the end, I'm less concerned with who winds up in the capitol and more concerned with how the electorate winds up, how we see each other and treat each other.  Though I've lived in California for thirteen years, I've always considered Wisconsin to be my home.  I don't want it to be just another place where partisans spit fire and tear each others' throats out.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bicycle Building: The Adventure Begins

A few years ago, following a long absence from bicycling, I got back into riding.  I was initially training for a sprint triathlon, but knee damage ended that in the 9th week of training, just before the triathlon.  I stopped running and swimming, but I kept cycling.  I can't resist learning about machines and attempting to mess with them, so I inevitably decided to modify a commuter bike I bought.  Last summer, I built up a road bike from a Milwaukee/Waterford frame.  This year, I built up a Handsome/Twin Six frame into a single-speed cyclocross (SS CX) bike.

I have another bike in the works, a titanium-framed hillclimber.  If this sounds excessive, I agree.  Five bikes is a bit much, but I really do enjoy the process of researching and selecting parts, then building up the bike.  I enjoy artistic things as well, so the next logical step in my mind is to build and paint a lugged steel frame.  This involves buying steel lugs and tubing, then welding (well, brazing, really) the frame together.  I don't need any more bikes, so I offered to build a bike for a friend.  She is currently going along with it.  I will not "out" her in case she changes her mind, but hopefully she will see it through.  To keep things inexpensive and classic, I'm using an 80s Italian groupset (Ofmega, Colnago, Campagnolo, and Ambrosio parts) I picked up off of Ebay.  They should look nice with a lugged steel frame.

I've ordered a "Jiggernaut", though this first frame may have to be done without a jig.  I'm going to be pretty straightforward with it, though I may wrestle with some problems when it comes to the frame geometry.  The would-be rider is... not tall, which means the frame size will be in the 50cm-52cm range.  The quill stem is non-adjustable and has a 125mm reach -- pretty long.  The wheels that came with the groupset are 700c -- standard size for larger frames.

What does this all mean?  Well, it all adds up to something called toe overlap.  When a rider pedals, his or her feet travel in a circle that comes near the back of the front wheel.  No big deal, typically.  When the rider turns the handlebars, the front wheel moves in front of one of the feet/pedals, but the bicycle's frame geometry ensures that the feet remain clear of the wheel.  If a bicycle frame gets smaller and the wheel size remains the same, the danger of toe overlap, i.e. the pedaling foot overlapping the wheel, increases.  There are ways to solve this:

* Use 650c wheels.  Smaller wheels = shorter radius from hub to tire = less risk of toe overlap.  It requires 650c rims, which means I would have to buy those rims, new spokes and nipples, then lace and true them.  It also means that the fork and rear triangle of the frame would have to be designed for 650c wheels; rim brakes have to be set up to reach the rim from where they are mounted, so you can't just throw smaller wheels on a bike built for larger ones.

* Increase the length of the top tube.  A longer top tube means the head tube (where the fork sits) is farther away from the bottom bracket (where the cranks turn).  Fork farther away = wheel farther away = less risk of overlap.  But again, the rider is small, so this will force her to stretch out, possibly uncomfortably unless I...

* Keep the stem short.  The stem of a bicycle connects the handlebars to the fork/steerer.  A shorter stem means the rider is less stretched out.  Unfortunately, my stem is a quill stem with a fixed 125mm length, so that's non-adjustable.

* Use shorter cranks.  Pedals are mounted on crank arms.  These come in different lengths.  Shorter cranks = less overlap.  Of course, these cranks are 170mm.  Not especially long, but not short.

* Change the head tube angle.  This only goes so far, especially with lugs (which are cast with certain angles in mind).  Essentially "turning" the fork and wheel away from the bike by changing the head tube angle can help prevent overlap, but... it's not really viable.

So this is my first big challenge, and most of it is self-inflicted.  As I start plotting out the target frame geometry, I'll post more updates.  Until then, here's a picture of the Colnago headset and 3TTT Colnago stem.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Kickstarter and Fanvestor-Oriented Game Design

I'm really happy to see game developers like Double Fine and inXile making high profile Kickstarter-funded projects.  I think these are great opportunities to give smaller groups of motivated fans niche products that would have difficulty finding publisher or venture capital funding.  Great.  This is why every fan loves it, really.

A semi-rhetorical problem I've seen folks propose is, "How do you deal with fans when they're direct investors in the product's development?  Fans don't know what they want."  Should forum posters define the parameters of a game's systems?  Its story?  Should fans be allowed to design a new ending for a game via crowd-sourcing if a bunch of people are mad about it?  How do you reconcile fans' conflicting interests?

This seems like an odd problem to propose, as though now, suddenly, the wants and needs of a diverse paying audience become problematic because they're kickstarting the game's development.  They're still the endusers; that hasn't changed.  What's removed are random staff members -- production, marketing, PR -- at the publisher shifting the project around in the pitch phase, pre-production, and during development.  Even though we're in the defining moments of this nascent trend, I have to forecast this as purely beneficial for everyone directly involved.

I started my career as a web developer for Black Isle Studios.  I was the moderator for a number of high-traffic message boards.  Facilitating interaction between the developers and community has always been important to me.  You can't make everyone happy, certainly, but you can help the community understand what you're doing -- and why.  When the community gains this understanding, their expectations can be framed in a way that appreciates the process the developers go through.  Not everyone will agree with the decisions developers make, but that's fine -- you can't make everyone happy, whether you're being funded by a publisher or the endusers.  We shouldn't try to.  But we should all try to engage our audience in the spirit of genuine interest, listen to what they have to say, give honest feedback, and formulate an experience that they will enjoy.

Design isn't about asking a client what he or she wants and then doing it, verbatim.  It's not about trying to make everyone happy.  It's about understanding the myriad, often conflicting wants and needs of a defined, diverse audience and developing a product that brings them satisfaction.  Satisfaction can come after shock, after frustration, after disappointment.  These moments of pain and fear don't detract, but add to the richness and enjoyment of the final product.  Like anything worth our love and devotion, the process to achieve it is often a struggle.  The worst we can do is disappoint our fans -- but that's always been the case.  For crowd-funded games, it's just gamers and game-makers.  It may not be the way all games can be (or even should be) made, but I'm so glad it's an option, and I hope that everyone involved embraces the potential for sincere collaboration and feedback it presents to us.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Do (Say) The Right Thing: Choice Architecture, Player Expression, and Narrative Design in Fallout: New Vegas

Terrible title for a GDC talk, I know, but it turns out the convention guides had no written descriptions of the sessions, so at least the topic was (hopefully) clear.

Eventually, GDC will make a video of this session available at the GDC Vault, though I believe it will require some form of membership.  You can check out my slides here in .pdf form.

Based on feedback I've seen online, I want to attempt to clarify a few things:

* My inclusion of the ME2 "ass" screenshot was to highlight its absurdity.  In the context of that slide, it's an example of how developers have improved things like butt-framing shots but haven't made great strides in choice architecture.  I don't have any problem with improving aesthetics, but I believe we should continue to refine how we develop choices for players.

* When I was discussing karma/reputation displays of +1/-1, I wasn't championing karma systems, but I was championing visible changes in the GUI for all of what I call "Indirect Reaction Systems" (e.g. karma, reputation, influence, etc.).  I think mechanical clarity is more important than immersion, and characters vary heavily in how much they emote reactions.

* Validating all choices specifically does not mean that they should all be subjectively equal.  I gave two examples of "good" choice agony from Greek tragedy: Orestes and Antigone.  Both of these characters have two choices for one decision.  The choices have good aspects and bad aspects, but they are not "six of one / half a dozen of the other".  The values implied by each choice are subjective.  There is not a single right thing to do for each character: both choices contain virtue and sacrifice -- and both are valid.  Validation also does not need to come through mechanics, though using something like reputation or influence (i.e. an Indirect Reaction System) can make an abstracted validation easier than hand-scripting specific benefits and drawbacks to every choice.

EDIT: For a more contemporary example, please see Mookie's choice at the end of Spike Lee's film Do the Right Thing, from which the title of this talk was borrowed.

I apologize for poor communication on these points.  If you have any other questions or criticism, please feel free to post them here or on my Formspring page.  Thanks.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Fallout weapon skills

Folks like to talk about weapons and weapon skills in Fallout.  I'm one of those folks.  Since I played the original Fallout, I disliked how the skills were organized.  Even in Fallout: New Vegas, I wasn't entirely happy with how I laid out the skills (though I was glad that Big Guns went away).  Instead of going through all of the reasons at length, I'm going to summarize, below:

1) In a game where a player makes an investment in a variety of skills, I believe those skills should be applicable from the beginning of the game to the end of the game.  In F1, that wasn't the case with Small Guns/Big Guns/Energy Weapons.  In F:NV, it was true for Guns and EWs, but it resulted in a lot of weapon role redundancy between the two skills.

2) I believe taking different skills should change the gameplay of the character.  This really has never been true between Small Guns/Guns/EWs.  You pretty much use all of them the same way, especially because of role redundancy or application overlap (cf. Laser and Sniper Rifles in F1, Anti-Materiel Rifle and Gauss Rifle in F:NV).  It's also not true of Unarmed/Melee Weapons.

3) Not really my beef, but often comes up from other players: EWs in F:NV don't feel suitably powerful compared to conventional firearms.  This comes from 1), where I wanted players in the early game to have access to items that consistently made use of their EW skill.  Thus, you end up with Laser Pistols and Plasma Pistols that don't feel dramatically different from 9mm Pistols and .357 Magnum Revolvers.  They're all starter weapons.

4) Again, not a personal concern, but an issue for many players: there are a ton of weapons and ammo types in F:NV.  Even taking subtypes out of the mix, there are far more base types than in any other Fallout game, and an arsenal of weapons -- some people like this, some don't.  My concern as a designer is that people are overwhelmed by the number of items and cease to be able to sort, distinguish, and make intelligent choices about what to use, and when.  And the more weapons there are, the more difficult they are to balance.

I think there are a number of ways that you can organize weapon skills in Fallout.  Based on discussions I've had recently about the above problems, I advocate reducing skill point pools further, folding more skills together, and cutting down the number of base weapon and ammo types.  Guns and EWs become Guns, Melee Weapons and Unarmed become Melee, and Explosives stands alone (but absorbs Flamers, Incinerators, and like weapons).

Doing this, you could cut a large number of similar ammunition and base weapon types (e.g. 9mm, 20 Ga. 12.7mm, .357 Magnum, .45-70 Gov't, .50MG and their related weapons), have three weapon skills that feel distinctive, and allow laser and plasma weapons to occupy only mid- and high-end power roles (e.g. Laser Pistols get introduced around mid-game, with weapons like the Plasma Rifle appearing in the late game).

The main consequence from a role-playing perspective would be that certain character concepts would not be consistently viable.  The post-apocalyptic cowboy and grunt would be missing their Brush Guns and LMGs because those roles would likely have been supplanted by EWs (or reduced in power, replacing other items like Trail Carbines/Assault Rifles).  In this regard, it would be similar to F1 in progression, but without the late-game skill shift.  It may be that mods could help conventional firearms creep up into the heavens, but the intended design would imply that players who take this approach are essentially handicapping themselves.

From my perspective, balancing and loot distribution would become much easier and I'd have more confidence that players would intuitively "get" the sort of gameplay they expect when they focus in one of the three weapon skills.  I've seen way, way too many players fumble around with F:NV's arsenal during playtests and Let's Play videos to have confidence that more than 50% of the players are making informed decisions (pre-patch Service Rifle against NCR Heavy Troopers when there's an AMR in your inventory? OKAY!).  Perks would also have to be re-organized and, in some-cases, re-designed, but in some cases, this would clearly be a good thing (e.g. almost all of the Melee/Unarmed-oriented perks would no longer need redundant either/or skill conditionals).

In conclusion,

Monday, January 30, 2012

JSawyer.esp - v3

I had hoped to tackle some of the more difficult bugs for this version, but my lack of scripting ability proved to be troublesome.  I will likely not be able to update the mod again before Ultimate Edition comes out, so unfortunately some of the issues like Chet's store refreshing/clearing the Courier's Stash items won't be addressed in time.

I will likely make one more update after this, but because some of the bugs I'd like to address are more difficult to fix, it may be a while before that update is ready.

As before, the mod is here:

v3 Changes:
* Sturdy Caravan Shotgun added to ShotgunSurgeonWeaponsList
* Super Slam, Piercing Strike, Unstoppable Force, Slayer set to have OR conditionals for equivalent Unarmed or Melee Weapon skill levels.
* Lead Belly now negates ST penalty from eating raw meat (of all kinds).
* IsHardcore condition on raw meat ST reduction removed.  This means you will always suffer ST loss from eating raw meat unless you have Lead Belly.
* Ninja now adds 15% to Critical Hit Chance with Melee/Unarmed (instead of multiplying by 1.15).  Prereq allows Melee Weapons or Unarmed to qualify.
* Lady Killer and Cherchez La Femme damage bonuses increased from 10% to 15% due to proportionally lower numbers of female characters in the game.
* Demolition Expert now has only 2 ranks.  Each rank grants +10% damage and +10% larger explosion radius.  Don't worry; Explosives are still very powerful.
* Marksman Carbine and All-American removed from Grunt list.
* Battle Rifle and This Machine added to Grunt list.
* Mercenary's Grenade Rifle, Great Bear Grenade Rifle, and Red Victory Grenade Rifle added to Grunt list.
* Plasma Spaz now (also) increases attack rate with plasma weapons by 20%.
* Rad Absorption now decreases radiation 10x faster (was 1 per 20 seconds is now 1 per 2 seconds).
* In Shining Armor perk condition fixed to get the Attacker Weapon as EnergyWeapons.
* Stonewall DT bonus vs. Melee/Unarmed weapons increased from 5 to 10.
* Missing metal armors (NCR Salvaged Power Armor, Gecko-Backed, etc.) added to In Shining Armor list.
* Composite Recon Armor removed from In Shining Armor list.
* Loneseome Road metal armors and helmets (e.g. Armor of the 87th Tribe, Marked Beast helmets) added to In Shining Armor lists.
* Elijah's Last Words Attack Speed bonus replaced with 25% damage bonus and extended to Unarmed weapons. Condition set up properly.
* Elijah's Ramblings Melee Weapons critical hit bonus dropped to 25%
* Roughin' It Bedroll Kit weight dropped from 15 to 10
* Blood Sausage healing effect dropped from 5 points per second to 2 points per second.
* Blood Sausage and Black Blood Sausage marked as Food Items (affected by Survival and count toward Desert Survivalist).
* Thin and Thick Red Pastes marked as Food Items.
* Red Pastes and Blood Sausages VAL reduced to the 5-15 range as an economy-preserving measure.  All now Restore Starvation in Hardcore.
* Them's Good Eatin' drop rate lowered from 50% to 15%.
* Implant GRX daily uses dropped from 5 to 2 and 10 to 3 for each rank, respectively.

* Logan's Loophole updated to max out at 21 (was 20) since someone pointed out that the age limit in the book was 21 (30 in the film and original perk).
* Meltdown now only triggers from plasma weapon kills (anything affected by Plasma Spaz). This was previously an undocumented change (sorry).
* Cass's Caravan Shotgun spread reduced and DAM/Crit DAM increased significantly (due to her relatively late acquisition in the game).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

JSawyer.esp - v2

A little while back, I released a mod for Fallout: New Vegas.  I made a few errors and omissions in the process. I think I've addressed the majority of them.  Below is the list of new changes (vs. the initial release).  As before, the mod can be downloaded here:

v2 Changes:

* Logan's Loophole modified to cut the player's advancement off at 20th level. I know that ruins the reference but...
* Broad Daylight level prereq from 36 to 24, Sneak 70 prereq added
* Certified Tech level prereq from 40 to 24, Sneak 90 prereq added
* Just Lucky I'm Alive, Thought You Died, Ain't Like That Now prereqs from 50 to 34.
* Gum Drops from 1.0 to 0.25 weight.
* Bubblegum from 1.0 to 0.1 weight. Wow!

* Reverted XP halving to address more comprehensively through iXPBase and iXPBumpBase
* iXPBase set to 275 (from 200) & iXPBumpBase set to 200 (from 150) - Increasing required XP by a little more than 1/3.
* Lowered base player HP (before any bonuses) from 100 to 50.
* Reverted fPCBaseHealthMult change as it had no obvious effect.
* Lowered fADVHealthEnduranceMult from 15 to 10.
* Vanilla F:NV HP formula: 100 + (End * 20) + ([Level - 1] * 5) -- JSawyer HP formula: 50 + (End * 10) + ([Level - 1] * 5)
* Sierra Madre Martini HP bonus dropped from 75 to 40.

* Adjusted Dale Barton's, Lacey's, and Little Buster's Caravan decks.
* Reduced weight of non-Salisbury Steaks (Coyote, Dog, Gecko) from 1.0 to 0.8
* Switched all Pre-Order items to be sold at Chet's store.  Nothing is given to the player outside of what Doc Mitchell hands him or her.
* Switched all Pre-Order message boxes to corner messages.
* Unique Pre-Order item prices raised to slightly above their non-unique counterparts.
* Mercenary's Grenade rifle weight dropped from 5.5 to 5, health bumped from 100 to 120.
* Mod slots removed from Weathered 10mm Pistol.
* Metal Armor and Lightweight Metal armor Health set to 200.
* All Raider armor weights dropped from 15 to 7.5.

* Merc Outfits all given two bonuses: one weapon skill at +10, one non-weapon at +5.  The exception is Merc Charmer: three non-com at +5.
* Normal Merc Outfits all given 3 DT.
* "Unique" versions have "Reinforced" added to front of name.  Value from 50 to 1200, DT set to 8.
* Raider armors all given misc bonuses.  Unique versions have those bonuses + weapon skill bonuses.
* Leather and Reinforced Leather Armor weights dropped from 15 to 9.  Gecko-Backed to 9.5.
* Raider armor healths dropped from 100 to 75.
* Adventurer: +5 Science, +10 Energy Weapons
* Charmer: +5 Barter, +5 Speech, +5 Medicine
* Cruiser: +10 Melee Weapons, +5 Sneak
* Grunt: +10 Guns, +5 Repair
* Troublemaker: +5 Lockpick, +10 Explosives
* Veteran: +5 Survival, +10 Unarmed
* Painspike: +3 Critical Chance
* Sadist: +15 Health
* Badlands: +10 Action Points
* Blastmaster: +20 Fire Resist
* Sharp-Dressed Raider's Armor: +3 Crit, +10 Guns
* Hand-Me-Down Raider Armor: +15 Health, +10 Melee
* Highway Scar Armor: +20 Fire Resist, +10 Explosives
* Psycho-Tic Helmet: +5 AP
* Arclight Helmet: +10 Fire Resist
* Blastmaster Helmet: +10 Explosives
* Wastehound Helmet: +10 Radiation Resist
* Bogeyman's Hood: +15 Radiation Resist
* The Devil's Pigtails: +8 AP
* Pyro Helmet: +15 Explosives
* All unique Merc and Raider armors and helmets added to Mick's store
* Emily Ortal's dialogue fixed so the 6 PE check is run on the Courier. Now you too can know the gross sexual history of Emily Ortal.
* Removed pic of VAULT MOM AND DAD from Vault 21.
* Metal Armors from 30 to 20 weight.
* Gecko-Backed from 33/35 to 23.
* Lightweight Metal Armor (Pre-Ord) to 15 weight.
* Most Medium armor weights lowered.
* Armor of the 87th Tribe weight lowered to 25 lbs.
* Armored Jumpsuits to 8 weight.
* Sierra Madre armor to 8 weight, Reinforced to 9.5
* MM Scout Armor to 7 weight.
* Vault 34 Security Armor to 9.5 weight.
* Lobotomite Jumpsuit to 5 weight.
* Hazmat Suit to 8 weight.
* Assassin Suit to 8 weight.
* Chinese Stealth Armor weight to 7, bonus to Sneak now +25.

* Created WithAmmo forms for the 5.56mm Pistol and Battle Rifle.
* Placed 5.56mm Pistol and Battle Rifle on various drop lists.
* Apocalypse Gladiator Armor DR from 0 to 17.  Weight to 22.  VAL to 3500.
* Apocalypse Gladiator Helmet VAL to 700.
* Shellshocked Combat Armor and Helmet revised.
* Road Rascal Leather Armor revised.
* Wanderer's Leather revised.
* All-Purpose Science Suit weight from 2 to 6.
* Followers Lab Coat given 8 DT.  VAL from 16 to 1000.  "Reinforced" added to the end of the string.
* Recon Armors given +15 Sneak.  Christine's COS Recon Armor given +20 Sneak.  Recon Armor effect string renamed to "Recon Armor".
* Metal Armor -1 AG enchantment replaced with -15 Sneak enchantment.
* Salvaged NCR Power Armor given -10 Sneak instead of -1 AG
* Power Armor Training carry weight bonuses halved from old (mod) values.
* Commando Armor revised to be Metal Armor, Reinforced with a +20 Sneak bonus.
* Shellshocked Combat Armor + Helmet and Composite Recon Armor + Helmet added to Nellis munitions vendor.
* Other unique metal/leather/raider/merc armors split between Cliff Briscoe and Mick.
* .308, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum drop rates increased in Military Footlockers in Old World Blues.
* Flamer Fuel weights halved.
* (GRA) suffix removed from all GRA ammo subtypes.
* (GRA) suffix removed from GRA weapons that have base game equivalents (e.g. Baseball Bat)
* All standard weapons with moddable GRA equivalents given all GRA mods.
* Instances of standard Assault Carbine Mags and 12.7mm Silencers removed/replaced with GRA equivalents.
* Weapons (now) lacking GRA suffixes removed from the Master of the Arsenal challenge weapon list.
* Weapons like the Battle Rifle, Bozar, Katana, Tin Grenade, etc. retain the (GRA) suffix for challenge/achievement/trophy purposes.
* Fixed incorrect icons for Ballistic Fist, Displacer Glove/Pushy, and Zap Glove/Paladin Toaster